This vegan lemon rhubarb cake is perfect for spring – light, full of fruit, sweet and slightly tart. Made with whole grain spelt flour, coconut oil, and maple syrup, it’s a slightly healthier cake.
This was originally published in June 2015. It has been updated as of May 2020 with new photos and improvements to the recipe and text.
Lemon and rhubarb are a perfect pairing. It seems like it shouldn’t be, as both are so tart, but with a good helping of maple syrup (or honey, if you’re not vegan) they complement one another in much the same way that rhubarb and ginger do. Rhubarb can often be flat on its own and needs something a bit sharp.
I recently bought a big box of lemons from Crowdfarming (not sponsored) a company that links farmers to individuals across Europe to buy fruits, vegetables, and other product straight from the farmer. If you live in Europe I encourage you to take a look and consider getting some of your produce from them – you can always split it among friends and family.
It’s a lighter cake, reasonably appropriate for an afternoon snack or even breakfast, and a nice way to ring in rhubarb season. As it’s not hugely sweet, I like to top things off with a drizzle of honey before serving.
That being said, the fat content and sugar aren’t low because it’s a cake! It’s no company’s coming recipe, but it’s not oil-free/sugar-free/joy-free either. (It’s one thing to do that with chocolate, and quite another with rhubarb.)
- Spelt flour (see below)
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Sea salt
- Non-dairy milk (I use oat milk)
- Maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)
- Coconut oil
- Lemon zest
- Lemon juice
You don’t have to go in this order, if you’re a real mix the dry then start on the next steps kind of person, but I always start melting the coconut oil before anything else. This allows it to cool a bit before you add it to the other ingredients. The recipe calls for melted coconut oil so keep this in mind if you want to streamline.
Chop the rhubarb before you start mixing the cake, too. Like the rhubarb, it’s listed in the ingredient list as cut, so this isn’t in the method first, but it’s good practice. I cut it into 2cm (3/4 in.) strips, then go curved-side down onto the cake in a curve pattern. You don’t have to do this and can toss chunks of rhubarb on as you please or create a different pattern.
Preheat the oven, grease the cake form, and set it aside. This is not a one bowl cake, but it’s still easier than creaming butter/sugar/eggs. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set it to the side while you mix the milk etc.
Whisk the milk, maple syrup, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla in another bowl. Adding the melted coconut oil in a slow stream while whisking prevents it from clumping up too much when it hits the cold ingredients. This isn’t such an issue if you have room temperature milk for some reason.
Milk mix goes into the flour mix, stir it in, pour that into the greased cake form, and level it out a bit. Top with the rhubarb, bake, cool, serve!
The recipe originally called for all whole spelt flour, but I found in making it again that I preferred with a sifted flour. If you want to have a more wholesome cake, you can use wholemeal flour instead. Of course it’s also possible to use regular wheat flour instead of spelt.
I haven’t tried to make this cake gluten free. This gluten free lemon cake from Alanna isn’t vegan, but if you’re good with eggs I think it’s a nice option topped with rhubarb too.
If you prefer, you can use a liquid oil in place of coconut oil (like avocado, grape seed, or a light olive oil) but it will change the texture of the cake. I don’t recommend subbing liquid for the coconut oil unless you really have to. Since this is a really old recipe, I did make it with butter the first couple of times, years ago, so I can say that it works with butter too.
Tips and Notes
A spring-form pan is ideal, but a regular cake pan will be fine too. Mine is 18cm (7 in.) so a bit of a strange size, but a slightly larger or smaller one will work with a very slight variation in baking time.
You might want to make this at a different time of year, and it’s an excellent lemon cake as is, though the rhubarb topping is really what pushes it over the edge. Other fruits could be used to top – raspberries, blueberries, apricots – but those are different recipes altogether.
60ml (1/4 cup) of lemon juice is two good lemons for me. You might need a little more or less than that, but please measure to ensure accuracy.
The cake doesn’t freeze very well because the rhubarb gets a bit soggy when it thaws. You can still freeze it if you’d like, just note that the topping won’t be as nice as fresh.
More Rhubarb Recipes
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- 375 grams (2 1/2 cups) spelt flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 300 ml (1 1/4 cups) non-dairy milk
- 180ml (3/4 cup) maple syrup (or honey)
- Zest of two lemons
- 60ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 120 grams (1/2 cup) coconut oil, melted
- 3-4 stalks rhubarb (about 2 cups), cut into 2cm (3/4 in.) pieces
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and grease a spring-form cake tin with coconut oil. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In another bowl, whisk the milk, maple syrup, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla until combined. Slowly pour in the melted coconut oil while whisking to incorporate.
- Pour the milk mixture into the large bowl with the flour mixture and gently whisk until just mixed. Do not over mix.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake form and shake gently to level the surface.
- Top the cake with the rhubarb in any pattern (or lack thereof) you like.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the cake is quite golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. It will be a dark colour due to the maple syrup or honey.
- Cool the cake in the tin for 15 minutes before removing the sides and cooling fully on a rack before serving. It can be stored for 2-3 days in a sealed container, refrigerated if your house is very warm.
See above for full notes on substitutions.
Serving Size:1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 263Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 249mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 4gSugar: 16gProtein: 6g
This data is provided by a calculator and is a rough estimation of the nutritional information in this recipe.